Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality Directory

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Immersive Storytelling – Which Came First: The Technology or the Creative?

There I was in a cinema 10 years ago captivated, pupils fully dilated, and hit squarely between the retina, chasing technicoloured humanoids and hybrid creatures through a fantasy world across the big screen. The movie? James Cameron’s, Avatar. My emotional and visual senses were in overdrive following complex characters and multi-layered storytelling. I was immersed in these elements, but what also had me jumping in my seat was an insight to the future of technological advancements for instinctive human interactions with technology itself. That magic moment in the movie was seeing data captured and transferred with the quick and casual swipe of a finger from the translucent curved monitor directly on to the movie character’s tablet. Bam! Right there, I knew I needed to be a part of this future. Since then, over the last nine years I’ve been fortunate to work with top industry creative and technical individuals and development teams, sharing our company successes and celebrating theirs. These studios and companies develop mind blowing real-time virtual reality projects and experiences, where authentic motion for 3D animated avatars is needed to deliver a highly convincing and believable player and audience experience. They reside across a broad spectrum of sectors in motion capture, game development, training and simulation, virtual YouTubing, R&D for next-gen realism in facial animation, live broadcast, film and TV, VFX, real-time production, pre-vis, post- production, advertising, live performances, LBVR, holograms, education, social VR, VR collaboration and more. The real-time technologies that support and drive their projects and systems are both cutting-edge and innovative–when they pack the punch with memorable immersive storytelling, then they’ve delivered the full picture to their audience. Human interactions within XR needs to become second nature where our instinct overrides considered actions, which means when all our senses are fired then the more tangible and emotionally connected...

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Why HDR matters more in VR and AR

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a term that is used in relation to describing the increased area of variation in both color and brightness made possible by displays that support it. HDR comes in a confusing handful of standards, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma, Advanced HDR and most recently HDR10+. What matters is that all of theses standards are mapping colors across an increased 'color space'. In the image above the smaller 'HDTV' triangle represents the colors that can be displayed using the 'Rec. 709' color area standard that was developed in the mid-to-late 1990s, for Standard Dynamic Range displays. The larger 'UHDTV' triangle represents the 'Recommendation ITU-R BT.2020.' color area (Rec. 2020) that HDR televisions aspire to cover. Color But wait! The image you are looking at is not an HDR image, and the display you are reading this on may not be an HDR display, your computer/phone is probably not rendering to a HDR framebuffer (10 bits or 12 bits per RGB channel instead of 8), and your browser is probably not capable of displaying HDR content. So the colors you are seeing above are in reality all being mapped within the 'Rec. 709' standard color area, the smaller triangle. If you could see the image in HDR it would look much more vivid. But since you cannot, lets at least examine quantization in relation to the '8 bits per channel RGB frame buffer' that displays use. 8 bits yields 2^8 = 256 possible values per channel, which makes '256 reds * 256 greens * 256 blues' possible. This results in a total of 16,777,216 possible colors. That sounds like a lot! And yet actually it is only going to contain 256 possible grey-scale values (0, 0, 0 through to 255, 255, 255). If you look carefully at the image above on a large display, you'll...

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The VRARA Enterprise Summit: VR Moves from “Hype” to Prototype

With emerging technology, the pace of adoption is typically defined by the “hype cycle,” or a graph developed by Gartner to define the different phases of mass adoption, and rate at which an emerging application or platform is progressing from euphoric, unrealistic predictions to actual, practical applications. According to Gartner, in 2017 virtual reality (VR) was approaching maturity and in the penultimate phase of adoption, known as the “Slope of Enlightenment,” followed by the final phase, the “Plateau of Productivity.” In its 2018 report, Gartner removed VR from its emerging technology hype cycle entirely, suggesting it had evolved beyond this final stage, and wrote: ‘(VR) technology is rapidly approaching a much more mature stage, which moves it off the emerging technology class of innovation profiles.’ 2017: Virtual Reality as the lone technology in the Slope of Enlightenment 2018: Virtual Reality has evolved beyond the Plateau of Productivity While mature, Virtual Reality (VR) is still nascent enough to find its standards in flux across multiple dimensions: what constitutes ‘good’ or effective content, the minimum standards for impactful software and hardware, how to make experiences universally accessible, and how to measure success. Organizations are being formed to help define these standards. For example, the VRARA, or Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Association, is a global trade association comprised of large organizations dedicated to understanding the technology and defining best practices for development, deployment and measurement. Last week, at the annual LiveWorx conference in Boston, the VRARA hosted a day-long Enterprise Summit,attended by and featuring speakers from organizations such as Boeing, ExxonMobil, Hasbro, Johnson & Johnson, Shell, Siemens, Sprint, and Unilever, all sharing insights on how VR is being used in industries as varied as AEC, aerospace &defense, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, and training in an effort to help bring these standards into focus. Several themes were consistently discussed: The challenges...

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Key considerations when scaling virtual reality across the enterprise

Currently most large companies and educational institutes have only just started their exploration of virtual reality technology. Some have engaged third party organisations to develop “one off” applications with no strategic approach, while having some initial success, many are disappointed with the ongoing value. My team and I have been exploring solutions to ensure we can deploy virtual reality across a large organisation and the applications add value to our current curriculum. In our research we have see a lot of focus placed on headset hardware and its maturity, but this is only the beginning: Hardware Maturity The market has been waiting for headsets to have the necessary features to deliver quality virtual reality content via self-contained unit. These features include adequate processing power, high resolution, accurate tracking, battery life at an acceptable price point. The Oculus Quest has delivered these five features (and we’ll hopefully see their competitors following their lead). Headsets as cheap as a tablet and requiring minimal ICT support are crucial for any large organisation to consider them as a viable technology tool. Standalone devices will be the most viable technology option for many organisations. However, PC powered headsets will still be required for more graphically intensive content and it is good to see some great innovation continuing in this space. Device Management While not as interesting to many as VR headsets, the ability to manage these devices at scale is crucial for successful and continued adoption. Device management encompasses: Maintenance and control of the device software, including firmware, OS updates, and network credentials. Device hygiene, charging and security – this is usually an unidentified issue initially when most organisation begin to explore VR. Shared devices require hygiene solutions; like replace face covers or something more sophisticated like the Clean Box. Charging will become a vital requirement especially with controllers and standalone headsets. Security is...

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Why XR is a natural fit for Health and Telemedicine

With the global telemedicine market expected to reach $30.12 billion by 2026 and Virtual Reality (VR) in healthcare expected to reach a market value of $3.8 billion by 2020, it is an area that we need to monitor closely. Telemedicine allows patients to access medical expertise quickly, efficiently and without travel.  Telemedicine can also be of great use to big pharma who cannot access patients with enough frequency to monitor drug efficacy. This is a game changer for the healthcare industry and with growing Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services, XR technology is perfectly poised to integrate. XR technology in the health / telemedicine sector is not new. In 1990, early experiments of virtual reality and gaming for patients was done by Dr. David Warner, a medical neuroscientist from Loma Linda University.  Warner gained international recognition for pioneering new methods of physiologically based human-computer interaction incorporating VR and gaming with paraplegic and quadriplegic patients allowing them to interact with computers for the first time using BioMuse (www.biocontrol.com) EMG sensors that detected eye/facial muscle movement to drive a cursor and jaw clenching to be the mouse click.  Warner's research efforts focused on advanced instrumentation and new methods of analysis which can be applied to evaluating various aspects of human function as it relates to human-computer interaction. This effort was to identify methods and techniques which optimize information flow between humans and computers. Movies such as Ironman, Robocop and others over the last few decades have depicted the future of human machine interaction and telemedicine. One person behind some of that future fantasy AR interface design and interaction is Ian Dawson who is the COO at MotusXR, www.motusxr.com, our company specializing in real time biometrics using XR. Utilizing wearables, the MotusXR platform can remotely monitor patients at home. Imagine Mrs. Jones at home putting on a wearable and the doctor or pharma company being able to receive her biometric data in real...

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The need for more simulations of the human body

There are many known and unknown elements, ways and conditions of the physiological external and internal structure of the human body. The way in which health practitioners have come to learn in particular fields of study have been mainly by way of books, illustrations, cadavers and living beings. In the natural scale of progression; technology has been a vehicle in which educational platforms have ushered in content for students to learn on; be it hardware of tablets, laptops and desktops. In the evolutionary scale of hardware; spatial computing, or rather, virtual and augmented reality, its beginning to be accepted as the next-in-line technology in which education is to be taught. A useful vehicle that provides its users with interactive and immersed 3D experiences in closed digital and open terrestrial environments. At some point, we must begin to realize, that it’s okay to look at the most promising and sought after technologies as mere tools, parts and pieces to higher functioning means. The technologies we build today, will in-time fade to obsolescence or over extend the stay in the ethos hierarchy. Every thing and Every one has a role to play and they must be allowed to play them. Computer vision, in the eyes of a developer is use-case fluent. We’ll never have a firm unadulterated fixture on preferred uses of computer vision, at least not for another ten years, if not more. But we must consider how this artificially intelligent identifier can and will effect medical immersive simulation. If we look at the pairing of ai and spatial computing, we’re now in the folds of immersive intelligence, catalyzed by a merge pairing within the greater eco-habitat of emergent technology. Now, let’s consider the accompaniment of ai + xr embedded into medical head mounted displays, haptic systems and spatial environments. The ability for health practitioners to work with...

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Shifting the VR consciousness

The other day, I came across a VR booth and two teenagers trying out applications there. They were wearing the latest sneakers;hip sunglasses and they had their Oculus Go VR headsets positioned on top of their heads like fashion accessories and giggling with their new toy. That might not be the intended use of a VR headset, but it made me smile. We’ve reached the point where virtual reality is not just evolving technically but also culturally. What does that really mean? It means that we see all kinds of people having access to headsets or at least trying games, simulations, experiences, caves and other VR applications easily in shopping malls, arcades, theme parks, movie theaters and other similar public events.Now, more than ever, it’s important to grip these different kinds of audiences and create lasting impressions. Just when VR is reaching a wider audience, the lack of meaningful and lasting stories threatens to hold it back. It is vital that we focus less on spectacle — and shift our VR thinking. The content we make for VR should not be seen as a product for onboarding diverse audience, but just like the canonical cinema from the past 200 years — which is still captivating, compelling, gripping and emotionally resonating with different kinds of audience. We should design VR content with a vision to be a part of the long-term virtual landscape. It’s vital to put today’s VR technology into the hands of a more diverse group of VR storytellers tomorrow. While companies are definitely working to simplify the hardware and software used to make VR and spread it far and wide, so that it’s as accessible as possible — and that young kids, senior citizens, people in third world countries, or even refugees fleeing war can make and tell their own virtual...

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From 360 films to immersive installations

My journey in 360 video starts in 2015, I make a lot of institutional films before discovering a wider spectrum of immersive technologies. I discover and work in holograms, augmented reality, I do an artificial intelligence hackathon and I become passionate about virtual reality video games. Originally I came from the theatre field, so 360° video fascinated me for the work as a staging director close to performance. Following an artistic residency organized by the French Ministry of Culture, I rebuilt the bridge between scenography and RV. Moreover, many museums ask for immersive installations that include a certain staging, we no longer just want to lock people in a helmet. So I'm working on a digital installation with many immersive technologies about Vikings. It's quite difficult to describe my work because since I'm a freelancer (2018) I've become the Ali Baba of immersive technologies ^^ I'm as much a consultant, production director, artistic director of immersive installations and 360° documentary director. I made a film called FILAMU that runs festivals because I talk about Tanzania and the relationship Afro- Americans have with Africa, but in a humorous way. Many people think that 360° video is already a dead medium, but the constraints it brings make me very creative. Also, financiers are trying to develop an economic model based on ticketing for LBE, they are looking for experiences that people cannot get at home: Installations with actors, complex games, simulators. 360° video is very accessible, and therefore its monetization is complicated. But personally I think it's great because it opens up perspectives for people who are not very popular, there are 360 communities all over the world and their content are accessible, I can be immersed in India, Africa, Australia...

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Voice + VR, the Next, Next Frontier of Storytelling

There’s a lot of activity happening in the background on Amazon’s Alex platform. Developers and designers are creating voice skills (apps) that allow us to interact with computers and the internet in dynamic new ways. But what happens when that level of interactivity continues and is merged with XR? While there are many implications for this and some tangible examples (RealWares voice-enabled AR headset for virtually assisting field and manufacturing technicians), the opportunity I haven’t heard much on and am personally most excited for, is voice AI and interaction in VR. As a fan of Skyrim I thought, “How cool would it be if I could actually shout the ‘shouts’ (or Thu’um for the hardcore) while playing?’. What if I could have a dynamic conversation with anyone of the characters living in the world and not be limited to the ‘Arrow in the knee…’ conversation. What if I can tell my Mass Effect squad mates where to defend or attack in the middle of a firefight and then learn about their backstory or joke around in a face-to-face conversation afterwards? The opportunity to streamline the VR experience from a UX perspective is important (typing in VR sucks), but the storytelling and immersive aspect is immense. Everything from video games to movies could be incorporated into experiences that are differentiated only by the purpose or objectives while sharing the same level of interactivity. Education could also be transformed. Learning history could become an experience of walking through a military camp, talking to any soldier about the previous battle, about their families, and why they’re fighting, in any order, at any time. What was it like to be an artisan or trader during the Renaissance? Or a Native American? And if the best way to learn a new language is to be immersed in that culture,...

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Creating the Future of Marketing

“This changes everything” is what I seem to say to myself at least every few weeks while I’ve been working in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.  It could be as simple as people changing the terms, “It’s XR now” or “It’s all about Spatial Computing, really.”  But it’s more about the technology shifts: the new software, the new hardware, the new companies being launched. It also is about the artists creating new experiences with the technology. Both have the opportunity to change the conversation about what is possible. For our company We Are Phase2, it’s all about Marketing. It’s about how to explain and promote these new technologies and what’s possible to those who are interested in buying, investing, and using them. It’s about how an advertiser or brand could use the technologies for marketing campaigns. Although the technology is 20+ years old, the ability to engage with XR on a mass scale is just beginning. The tech is “emerging” which means that it is changing, shifting, improving all the time. It means that developers are working fast to create the newest and best solutions. Artists are experimenting with what is possible to push the boundaries of the technology. It’s all tremendously exciting, but how does a business outside of the industry incorporate these technologies, and how do developers communicate the value of their innovations while outpacing the competition? That’s where we come in. We Are Phase2. The idea is Phase 1 is the new technology, and Phase 3 is a successful launch. What happens in between? Phase2. My partners Debra Davis, Jennifer McBride, and I founded We Are Phase2 because we noticed the disconnect between what emerging technology companies say and what innovative companies and brands need. Even those with the titles “Innovation” have a hard time seeing everything that’s out there and what’s...

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